Do Prostate Supplements Actually Work?

Several news articles and studies have come out regarding supplements and prostate health in the last few months. The first big one was regarding Vitamin E and its increase in prostate cancer risk. The more recent one was regarding saw palmetto; a commonly used supplement for BPH (benign prostatic hypertrophy), stating saw palmetto is not effective for BPH.



BPH and prostate cancer can cause problems with urination for men – frequent need or urge to urinate, waking at night to urinate frequently, trouble starting or stopping urination or not feeling like the bladder is empty after urination. Sometimes the symptoms overlap and an exam and/or lab work can help determine which is the cause for the trouble. Many medications are available to treat BPH and several options are available for prostate cancer also.


Vitamin E was sometimes recommended to prevent prostate cancer, but a new study shows an increase of 1 case of prostate cancer for every 625 men taking at least 400 IU Vitamin E daily in a year. The amount used in multivitamins is usually 30-50 IUs daily, much less than the amount studied and shown to cause the increase in prostate cancer risk and usually not a problem.


Several years ago Vitamin E was touted as the great new cardiovascular prevention supplement. “Keep your heart healthy.” It was later found that Vitamin E at doses of 400 IU/day or higher can increase the risk of hemorrhagic strokes and in patients with diabetes and heart disease, may be linked to heart failure. Unfortunately, Vitamin E strikes out again. The doses in most multivitamins are again much lower than what would be a concern.


Saw palmetto use occurs to treat the symptoms of BPH, but two NIH-sponsored trials have found no benefit for even mild BPH symptoms. The good news: it’s probably not harmful to try. The bad news: it may not do you any good. It’s thought that saw palmetto works like some of the pharmaceuticals used to treat BPH – Avodart (dutasteride) and Proscar or Propecia (finasteride) – and shouldn’t be used in conjunction with these medications.


If you’re experiencing trouble with urination, talk to your doctor before trying to self-treat either BPH or other prostate problems. Prostate cancer shouldn’t be ignored and can be treated with early detection.


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